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R S V P / ORANGE COUNTY : Let the Good Times Roar, '20s-Style : The founders' gala gives opera buffs a chance to dress up, dine, listen to Cole Porter tunes and dance the night way.

June 28, 1995|KATHRYN BOLD

Flappers, Cole Porter favorites and a roadster brought back memories of the roaring '20s at the Opera Pacific Founders' Gala.

"Let the Good Times Roll" was the theme of the dinner-dance held Saturday at a country French estate in Peralta Hills. More than 225 guests strolled the grounds admiring a miniature lake and a French-style millhouse perched near a waterfall. The $125-per-person gala was expected to net more than $60,000 for Opera Pacific.

Seeing Yellow

Like previous founders' galas, this one gave opera buffs a chance to indulge in their love of pageantry and theatrics.

"We're all frustrated artists," said Nora Jorgensen-Johnson, event chairwoman, who sported a lacy vintage gown and was accompanied by her husband, Jim Johnson. Beaded flapper dresses were seen on many of the guests.

"We chose the '20s theme because of the car," said Jorgensen-Johnson, referring to a replica of a 1929 Model A donated by Robert and Joanne Rosenberg for a drawing. Robert and Phoebe Lambeth won the roadster.

The party took place in Michael and Joan Carey's massive back yard, which was decorated in yellow and black to match the roadster. Yellow luminarias--candles set in sand-filled paper bags--lined the walkways and glowed after nightfall. Guests dined alfresco at tables draped in black and decorated with bouquets of yellow roses.

Specialty Catering prepared the gourmet dinner: vichyssoise with garlic cheese rolls, baby lamb chops and Chilean sea bass. An old-fashioned soda fountain was set up for dessert, where guests could smother vanilla ice cream with their choice of Amaretto, Belgian chocolate, butterscotch sauce, hot chocolate syrup and other gourmet toppings.

After dinner, a quartet from the Overture Company of Opera Pacific performed a "Cole Porter Revue," then guests danced to the music of the Sam Conti Band.

House Warming

Finding a home to stage their annual gala is no small feat for the founders, but event co-chairwoman Ellie Faber said the group prefers to hold the party at a private residence.

"It takes us into a different category," Faber said. "It makes the party more intimate."

The Society of Founders raises funds for Opera Pacific's Mainstage productions and for its Apprentice Artists Program, which encourages the careers of young singers. The founders helped provide funds to start the Orange County opera company in 1985.

"We found we had a lot of opera lovers but no opera," said Floss Schumacher, one of the founders. "We're now ranked No. 11 in the U.S. out of 150 opera companies. We've done 'La Boheme' and 'Aida'--all the big barn burners."

Among the guests were Mary Raymond, event co-chairwoman; Gayle Widyolar, newly elected board president of Opera Pacific, and her husband, David Scott; Walter and Gerry Schroeder, honorary chairmen; David DiChiera, general director of Opera Pacific; Robert and Maxine Gibson; Karen Hardin; Vicki Heston and Chancey Lott; Eve Foussard; Ham and Reta Hawkins; Georgene Smith; Vesta Curry; Charlie and Maggie Price; Herb and Milli Wieseneck, and Walter and Gerry Schroeder.

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